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Prostitution goes online in South Bend

February 18, 2013|By Rachel Lake (RLake@wsbt.com) | WSBT-TV

SOUTH BEND – A prostitution sting in South Bend leads to the arrest of three men. The sting took place late Saturday night and into the early morning hours.

It involved the Street Crimes Unit going undercover and posting an ad for prostitution on a popular website.

"No chit chat, so they're not just looking to have communication; they want to get down to business. They're trying to earn money, utilize the website for that, not for making friends," said Lt. Daniel Skibins with the South Bend Police Dept. Street Crimes Unit.

The website is southbendbackpage.com.

About a year ago, complaints started coming into the crimes unit about women using the website to sell sexual favors.

"However, in looking into Backpage, we did see some of the postings were pretty just outright you could read right into it, $100 for one night or in-calls only, out-calls only, $150 special for the weekend," said Skibins.

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Police set up a sting. They posted an ad on Backpage, pretending to be a prostitute.

Three men responded. They were 56-year-old David Ford of St. Joseph, 23-year-old Nathan Jenkins of Rochester and 34-year-old Brandon Mafuleka of Mishawaka. Police arrested them for solicitation of a prostitute. Skibins wouldn't say where the men were arrested, but he did say the overall investigation involves apartments, rental properties and hotels in South Bend. "They may use a nickname, so we had complaints of this nickname utilizing backpage working out of this hotel or this apartment," he said.

It's the type of work Chief Ron Teachman won't tolerate. In a statement, he responded to the arrests by saying "I hope this operation and those that will follow send a message to potential customers: The women of South Bend are cherished and they are not for sale."

"People think of prostitution as a victim-less crime, but people can be injured, assaulted or robbed because of these kinds of things," said Skibins. He added the investigation is ongoing and more people may be arrested including women.

Skibins says two of the 3 men arrested are married. So far, none of the women his unit has run across on the website look underage. No women have been arrested in the sting. Skibins says he hopes this will discourage people from using social media to carry out crime in the future.

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